Coping with STRESS

stressIT managers have difficult and challenging management responsibilities. In fact, you have arguably the toughest management role in your company because:

  • Technology is changing so fast
  • Users are demanding more from IT
  • IT employees are challenging to manage
  • Usually no one is around who can help a struggling IT manager

With these challenges comes stress which can be both costly and bad for your health.

Here are a few numbers from 2012 and 2013 studies worth considering:

  • In 2012 the World Health Organization estimated that stress cost the US over $300 billion in lost productivity.
  • UK workers lose 105 million days a year due to stress related issues and costs the UK over 1.2 million pounds a year
  • 40% of job turnover is attributed to stress by some studies.
  • Australia loses about $10 billion a year in lost productivity due to stress.

stress_1Stress is real and creates expensive health costs, periods of disability, absenteeism, job turnover, and poor productivity.

I know how real it is because I’ve seen stress take it’s toll on workers and I’ve even experienced it myself. Stress can be debilitating to a point it becomes hard to get out of bed in the morning. It can literally “lock you up” to the point it is difficult to function.

Left unchecked stress can be dangerous to your health, , , even to a point of life threatening from some of the health problems it can create such as high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke.

Warning signs
Stress indicators show up in several ways including:

  1. Cognitive – memory problems, difficulty in concentrating, poor judgment, and focusing on the negative
  2. Emotional – moody, short temper and feeling overwhelmed
  3. Physical – headaches, backaches, frequent colds, and can’t sleep
  4. Behavioral – change of eating or sleep patterns, isolation, increase in drug or alcohol use

I don’t know about you but I don’t see anything positive in these elements, , , it’s all negative.

What causes stress?
IT employees can tend to cause their own stress. You will see what I mean when you read the list below:

  • IT employees are high detail people who can be perfectionists. This need to be “perfect” creates stress.
  • Uncertainty abounds in IT with technology changing rapidly and users wanting flexibility and needing more technology.
  • Perfectionists are “their own worst critic” so they sometimes put unrealistic pressures on themselves.
  • You can’t control everything like IT people want and need to. Networks and systems will break at some point and any type of downtime creates stress for IT workers.
  • Technology users sometimes have unrealistic expectations of IT.

Reducing stress
There are ways to reduce stress, but it takes a concentrated effort. Here are a few ideas:

  • Avoid unnecessary stress – learn to use your senior management team and avoid battles that can be avoided.
  • Alter the situation – Compromise where you can, manage your time better, or express yourself and “get things off your chest”
  • Accept things you can’t change – Let go, , , you can’t control everything. Talk about it and look for positives in stressful situations.
  • Try to avoid your tendency to procrastinate on important work; be proactive and get ahead of the game as opposed to waiting to the last minute.

One of the things I do when stress hits is find a time where I can go to a quiet space and free up my mind.

stress_2I let my mind go to a special place in my life that helps me calm down, , , for me, this is the 6th hole of the Kaneohe Marine Base Golf Course. It’s a perfect 6-iron shot into the wind, my favorite shot.

I play this par-3 hole in my mind and when completed I go to the first tee and play a whole round of golf, , , in my mind. Before you know it, a lot of the stress has dissipated, , , believe me, it actually helps.

Your enjoyable space may be looking at a sunset, listening to the ocean breeze, or that special time you spent on one of your favorite vacations. Whatever it is, the point is to allow your mind the opportunity to “free itself up” from the pressures you are experiencing.

Be aware that your people experience stressful times as well so be on the alert for stress signs and do things that helps them feel appreciated, to eliminate uncertainty and reinforce the positives of what your IT organization is accomplishing. Appreciation does much more than you probably think.

Pay attention to stress, , , left unattended it can be destructive to your progress.

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